Dress rehearsal in the Ardennes After four weeks of intensive testing and set-up work carried out at Sebring, Monza and Paul Ricard, the moment has come for BenoÃ®t Treluyer to make his competitive debut as an Audi works driver. For the ...
Dress rehearsal in the Ardennes
After four weeks of intensive testing and set-up work carried out at Sebring, Monza and Paul Ricard, the moment has come for Benoît Treluyer to make his competitive debut as an Audi works driver. For the resident of Alencon, Normandy in France, it offers a chance to gain long-overdue recognition in Europe after becoming a star of the Japanese motorsport scene during the last decade thanks to his Formula Nippon championship success in 2006 and Super GT title in '08.
A mainstay of Pescarolo Sport at the Le Mans 24 Hours since 2007, Benoît was chosen last season to drive the Peugeot 908 HDI prototype loaned to Henri Pescarolo's famous squad. At the start of this year however, eager to introduce some fresh talent to the manufacturer's ranks, it was the Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich who contacted the Frenchman. For Treluyer, a new chapter in his career begins this weekend, after several weeks of training and with great excitement, at the historic Ardennes venue; a true test of a driver but one which Benoît is eager to accept.
"I believe I've never been any better prepared before a race," he proclaimed. "Normally, I arrive for a race with a bit of anxiety, or nervousness, hoping that everything will be alright. This time, I am heading to Spa-Francorchamps without pressure, like it's a private test. I am very relaxed because I feel that I am completely ready. I believe that I've never been so well prepared before racing a prototype."
It's fair comment that the winter months were a busy period for Benoît who, as already outlined, took part in four important pre-season tests in the US, Italy and France.
"It is a completely new car that we will be driving this weekend while the bodywork is the one we will use at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. In fact, our participation in the second Le Mans Series round is more of a rehearsal in race conditions prior to Le Mans. If victory is possible then we will of course do everything to win, but it is not essential. Our primary target is for the team to practice, to make sure the cohesion is perfect and to see which areas can be improved on further.
"In fact, we are here to continue our training," adds Benoît. "Until now, everything has been methodical during the four big test sessions already completed. Today, I've got more kilometres under my belt in the R15 TDI plus than I've ever had in an LMP1 car before. If I look at my previous 24 Hours participations, I just had a few installation laps before the race. This year is very different. I will be arriving at La Sarthe with my mind and body utterly prepared thanks to the kilometres already covered. We've only got one more chance at Spa, on a track that I am eager to re-discover, to fine-tune our preparation even though the details have already been checked."
Treluyer uses the word "re-discover" because his last visit to the Ardennes' circuit was more than ten years ago.
"I am very impatient to jump in the cockpit, get out on track and take up the challenge of Spa that I last visited during my F3 season in 1998. It is the same situation for my team-mate and friend Andre Lotterer who spent his childhood living just an hour's drive from the circuit but only raced there twice. The two of us are only talking about it with our team mate Marcel Fassler!"
The Swiss, who co-drives with the Franco-German duo, knows the Belgian venue well, which should help Benoît and Andre get up to speed quickly. Come Sunday, that precious advice should ensure that Audi's new trio perform the perfect dress rehearsal!